Category Archives: Occupational Health and Safety

Steps For Life

The Steps For Life walk in Lethbridge took place on the morning of May 6 this year and Flannery Safety Consulting took part. More than 1,500 people walked a route along Henderson Lake to support the cause.

As per the Steps for Life website, “Steps for Life brings together families and co-workers affected by workplace tragedy with friends, neighbours, community members and health and safety professionals who are all passionate about workplace safety.” This is the primary fundraiser for The Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support (known as Threads of Life), which “is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to supporting families along their journey of healing who have suffered from a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease.”

Lethbridge has traditionally been one of the biggest supporters of this fundraiser and 2017 was no different. The city’s walk featured 1,532 walkers—the most of any city in Canada—and has raised more than $40,000 as of May 8. That makes eight years in a row that Lethbridge has had the most participation in the country.

Overall, the national Steps for Life campaign has brought in $654,157 as of May 29, which exceeds the campaign’s target for 2017, thanks to generous donations from communities all over Canada. Flannery Safety Consulting is proud to have contributed to the effort this year and looks forward to the fundraising effort—and the walk—again in 2018. Thanks to the generous donors who contributed to Flannery Safety’s fundraising effort!

Jim Flannery, owner of Flannery Safety Consulting, getting ready to participate in the annual Steps for Life walk in Lethbridge, AB.

Protecting Your People Also Protects Your Profits

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Don’t attempt a crane dismantle without a plan.

Flannery Safety Consulting sets itself apart from the competition by emphasizing that in addition to worker safety, there is also abundant evidence that health and safety programs typically are quite profitable in a number of ways—a large Return On Investment in safety, decreased cost of projects, increased reputation, an increased ability for your company to bid on jobs, and many other benefits. By educating owners on the positives of a safety program—protecting your people protects your profits—better buy-in is obtained and better results are achieved.

“OSHA’s [Occupational Health and Safety Administration, United States] Office of Regulatory Analysis has stated: …our evidence suggests that companies that implement effective safety and health can expect reductions of 20% or greater in their injury and illness rates and a return of $4 to $6 for every $1 invested…”

Companies have begun to realize that having safety programs and safe records is a selling feature for their clients; some clients refuse to use sub-contractors who don’t have safety programs and safe working records. From Dodge Data and Analytics:

  • 51% report increases in project ROI; with a fifth of those reporting increases of greater than 5%
  • 43% report faster project schedules, with half reporting schedule improvements of a week or more
  • 39% report a decrease in project budget from a safety program, with a quarter reporting decreases of 5% or more. Only 15% reported that safety programs cost firms more—debunking the myth that safety has to negatively affect a firm’s bottom line.
  • 82% report an improved reputation
  • 71% report lower injury rates
  • 66% report they have a greater ability to contract new work
  • 66% report better project quality

The bottom line is that assessing and controlling hazards can only be done effectively when a company plans its work. Companies with a good plan are more productive and make fewer mistakes; better productivity and fewer mistakes boosts profitability. Likewise, healthy workers are more productive than injured workers and, again, this boosts profitability.

Flannery Safety Consulting provides services in the Lethbridge area and can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

International Day of Mourning

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April 28 is the International Day of Mourning, honouring and remembering the people who were injured or died as a result of occupational injury or disease in the previous year. Started in Canada, it is now observed in over 80 countries.

In Alberta in 2015 there were 125 lives lost due to workplace injury or illness, roughly one every three days. The official 2015 injury numbers have not yet been compiled, but in a typical year about 27,500 workers per year suffer a lost-time injury (ie. an injury severe enough to require the worker to miss at least one full day), about 43,100 workers per year undergo a modified work claim (the worker’s duties must be changed temporarily to accommodate working while recovering from injury), and about 54,300 workers per year suffer a disabling injury. Added together, that means that roughly one worker in 20 in Alberta will suffer a serious injury this year.

This is an enormous human cost. It affects the co-workers, family, and friends of injured people, changing their lives in the short and long term as they deal with the injured worker’s inability to do all things s/he used to be able to do. Or worse, dealing with the permanent loss of that individual, looking for answers and closure, and trying to live with that hole in their own lives.

And then there’s the societal impact. With more than 100,000 serious workplace injuries every year in Alberta, additional pressure is put on our health care system dealing with the immediate injury and subsequent rehabilitation. Houses have to be renovated at huge cost to accommodate people who lose the use of their legs. Workers who miss time due to injury are compensated by WCB, which costs Alberta companies more than a billion dollars every year in premiums.

In my line of work I’ve seen many serious injuries, from lacerations to partial amputations, to crushed fingers to broken bones to burns. I’ve seen first-hand what damage injuries in the workplace can do and the harm they do not only to the injured workers but to the people around them. Some people never recover from the physical injuries; even more never really recover from the psychological damage. I remain in this business because I’m committed to helping reduce the severity of injuries or prevent them entirely so fewer people have to deal with this trauma.

On April 28, please be sure to take a moment to think about all the people whose lives have been affected or stolen from them by workplace incidents.

Farms and Ranches Moving Forward in Response to Bill 6

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Photo: Tracey Flannery

While attending the Lethbridge Ag Expo last week, I found some great news at the Alberta Wheat Commission table: the government of Alberta is stepping up their educational program for farms and ranches, coming out of the changes from the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, better known as Bill 6.

The ministry of Agriculture and Forestry now has a FarmSafe Alberta page up with tons of good information on topics such as keeping kids safe and links to the SafeFarm newsletter.

Most importantly, information can be found there on one- and two-day workshops being held around the province in the next few weeks giving people information on how to put together a safety program that will comply with provincial Occupational Health and Safety legislation. This program is also being promoted by several key industry leaders: the Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley, Alberta Pulse Growers, and the Alberta Canola Producers Commission.

The workshops are free to attend and could be an outstanding opportunity for people struggling to figure out how to deal with the new OHS requirements to be given some clear direction on what they need to do to comply with the legislation.

Jim provides safety consulting services in the Lethbridge area and can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Don’t Forget to Hydrate in the Winter

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We all think about keeping our fluid intake up when we’re working hard, it’s hot outside and we’re sweating a lot, but we frequently forget all about this during the winter months, even though bundling up in layers to protect against the cold can still result in a fair bit of perspiration. Cold air tends to be dry air and that makes your body work harder to keep air in your lungs properly humidified.

And, of course, we all need to take in 2-3 litres of fluids per day to keep ourselves properly hydrated, regardless of anything else we’re doing or consuming.

Our bodies are made up of 60-70 percent water. Studies have shown that if a person is even one percent dehydrated, their productivity at work drops by about 12 percent, with clear signs of mood changes and energy levels dropping. At three-to-four percent dehydration, productivity can be reduced by 25-50 percent. And at 15 percent dehydration, you run the risk of actually dying, so it doesn’t take much to put you in danger.

The lack of productivity is due to two things. The first is that your body is becoming less physically capable of performing work due to the lack of fluids to transmit nutrients around your system.

The second reason is because a lack of fluids reduces your brain’s ability to transmit signals. As your body loses fluids, your brain does as well and without an adequate fluid solution to conduct electrical impulses, your brain becomes far less efficient. This reduces your ability to concentrate, slows your reaction time, and also leads to mistakes and incidents.

At three percent dehydration, your reaction time is the same as being at a 0.08 blood/alcohol level, which is over the Alberta provincial limit for driving. That makes you four to five times more likely to wind up having an incident than if you were properly hydrated. People who are dehydrated are also more likely to get sick and miss work, further reducing productivity while also putting other workers at risk of catching that disease.

So remember to drink lots of water or other fluids over the course of the day.

If you’re consuming something with a lot of caffeine, like coffee, you’ll need even more fluids as caffeine is a diuretic which flushes water out of your system. So try to limit your intake of coffee, cola beverages, or energy drinks which might actually be working against you.

Get yourself into the habit of drinking lots of water as you perform your daily chores and you’ll find yourself feeling more energized, more alert, more productive and safer.

Jim provides safety consulting services in the Lethbridge area and can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

References:

Hydration in the Workplace: Keeping Employees Hydrated Can Increase Productivity – http://www.aquaterracorp.ca/page.aspx?name=WorkplaceHydrationE#sthash.cj1rsNEq.dpuf

Employee Dehydration: Affecting Your Bottom Line? – http://bluelivingideas.com/2013/12/04/employee-dehydration-affecting-bottom-line/

How Heat Stress Affects Performance – http://ohsonline.com/articles/2010/05/01/how-heat-stress-affects-performance.aspx

Is Dehydration Affecting your Productivity? – http://worklifepeace.com/dehydration-affecting-productivity/

8 Tips for Hydrating in Cold Weather – http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/8-tips-for-hydrating-in-cold-weather

Article originally published in Buck Up! Magazine, Issue 3, Jan, 2015

Positivity in Occupational Health and Safety

I reckon that the occupational health and safety professional at any given job site is often the least popular person around. He or she is seen as the person who just makes everyone miserable with their constant nit-picking and criticism.

This, to me, is one of the fundamental problems the safety industry faces, and we tend to do it to ourselves.

The focus in the safety business tends to be very negative—What are the hazards? What did the worker do wrong? What documentation was forgotten? What process failed?

For instance, I’ve seen any number of inspection forms that are designed to document problems, with little or no thought to documenting what was good! After a while, the expectation is that every time a site inspection happens, it means there will be a bunch of negativity thrown around and everyone, from the top of the totem pole to the bottom, gets into that negative frame of mind.

But it is still possible to turn that wagon train around and blaze a new trail. Something I always insist on is that every documented inspection have at least one positive comment written on it. If the workers had their pre-job hazard assessments complete, write it down—and tell the workers you appreciate their efforts! If the housekeeping is in good shape, make note of it. If everyone is wearing the proper Personal Protective Equipment, congratulate them on doing things the right way.

Provide positive reinforcement for the things you want to see and you’re likely to get more of the same. More than that, you might start to change the perception that the safety team are nothing but low-down varmints looking to cause trouble.

Take time every day to talk to your team out in the field, get to know them, learn about their lives and what makes them happy. And celebrate all the things they are doing right. By fostering an environment where safety is not seen as a negative and a burden, you’ll get better buy-in, more personal investment into the process and a generally better attitude from the team.

When participating in a safety meeting, make sure to discuss the good things that people are doing to keep each other safe—talk about goals achieved, people who took the initiative to fix something before it became a problem, new procedures that will improve the health and safety of everyone.

Incentive programs to reward good behaviour can sometimes have pitfalls—sometimes they become an expectation regardless of performance; sometimes people who get away with bad behaviour get rewarded anyway. But planning an effective incentive program that rewards positive behaviour can be a great addition to your safety program when properly executed.

Obviously, if something is noted that poses an imminent hazard to life and health, work needs to be stopped immediately and the situation must be addressed. Likewise, if a substandard act or condition is present on site, it needs to be corrected. The key function of safety—to prevent injuries, damage, and loss of process—must always be kept in mind.

But don’t allow the job to be all about finding the deficiencies. Don’t set yourself up for everyone to get stressed out every time you come talk to them. Always remember that a pat on the back for a job well done is at least as important as a boot to the rear when something is wrong.

Article originally published in Buck Up! Magazine, Issue 2, December, 2014

Jim can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

OHS For Farms Is Coming Soon to Alberta

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Revised 4-Dec-2015

Alberta’s New Democratic Party was the only major party in the 2015 provincial election to even mention Occupational Health and Safety in their platform. Now, as they really start getting to business, they have officially introduced a farm safety bill that will take effect on January 1, 2015.

Bill 6 can be reviewed here.

As of this moment, Alberta is the only province in Canada where farming and ranching is not covered by OHS legislation. The Conservative Party, which had held office provincially since 1971, had consistently dragged their heels on this issue rather than risk angering a significant part of their support base. But the NDP, with their fresh take on business-related policy, are determined to ensure that every employee in Alberta enjoys the same protection.

The move affects about 60,000 workers—about as many people as are currently living in Airdrie—in 43,000 farming and ranching businesses. The bottom line is that all these people will enjoy protection under Alberta’s OHS legislation as well as mandatory Workers Compensation Board coverage, something they have not had in this province before.

It should be noted that recent clarifications by the government indicate that Bill 6 will have no impact on family farms and ranches—the OHS, WCB and employment standards revisions are strictly going to be directed at the protection of employees, so wives, sons and daughters who are not drawing paycheques as employees will be able to carry on as before—this is potentially a can of worms, so it will be important to stay current on any developments on this front as it may be perceived as creating a competitive advantage for some businesses over others.

Although the farming and ranching industry will have to get up to speed on OHS in only a few weeks, it still remains to be seen exactly what compliance for this industry will look like—there are currently no parts of the OHS Act, Regulation, or Code that pertain to farms or ranches and it will undoubtedly take some time to incorporate those things. In fact, in accordance with Bill 6, the OHS Code will not apply to farms and ranches until revisions to the Code have been made to address the farming and ranching industry.

What we can say for sure are that the general requirements of Alberta’s OHS Act and Regulation will now apply. Beginning in January, workers will have the right to know, the right to refuse unsafe work, and the right to participate in the safety process. Employers will have the obligation to identify and control workplace hazards and to ensure their workers understand what those hazards and controls are.

Although the Code will not officially apply until 2017, in order to exercise due diligence it is probable that farms and ranches will need to be at least somewhat familiar with some of the pertinent parts. Aside from hazard assessment and control (OHS Code, Part 2), there are several parts of the Code that might apply to farms and ranches, for example:

  • Chemical and Biological Hazards (Code, Part 4),
  • Emergency Preparedness (Code, Part 7),
  • First Aid (Code, Part 11),
  • Lifting and Handling Loads (Code, Part 14), and
  • Powered Mobile Equipment (Code, Part 19).

Farms have been able to take on WCB coverage to this point, but have not been required to do so. That’s also changing on Jan. 1 with farms and ranches expected to provide WCB for employees in the same way as other business in Alberta. Because there are so many businesses that will need to set themselves up with WCB coverage, farms and ranches will have until April 30, 2016 to get set up in one under one of the four industry codes, with premiums ranging from $1.70-$2.97 per $100 of insurable earnings.

Further details on WCB for farms and ranches can be found here.

Flannery Safety Consulting can help with your questions about OHS, WCB and the impact the coming changes will have on the farming and ranching industries. Give us a call at (403) 715-4162 or email us at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com.

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